Monday, October 29, 2007

Class Links

In participating in this class project, I have found many of my classmates’ blogs worth mentioning on my own. I feel that the time and effort put into the following blogs is easily noticeable through the quality of argumentation displayed.

Heatin’ it up!- The blog on the topic of global warming easily lays out the issue at hand. Focused on the government’s involvement in the issue, this blog hints at possible solutions to the problem through the use of credible sources.

Abortion 102- On the topic of abortion, I find that this blog finds a way to combat varying sides of the argument. With medical interest, the author focuses particularly well on writing without bias and successfully uses sources to create their argument.

Stem Cell Research- This site’s strongest attribute, I think, is its structure in argumentation. By focusing on a narrow aspect in each post the author is able to avoid bias and pick apart many opposing views.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Helpful Links

Below is a review of some of the links that I have posted in my previous blogs. I find these articles, journals, or websites to be reliable, informative, and insightful on the topic of mainstreaming.

Studies/Statistical Evidence

Zigmund and Baker- This is study that was conducted with the goal of recording the behavior changes of teachers and students in a mainstreamed classroom. It showed that the behavior of teachers did not change, but there were less behavioral issues with the non-handicapped children in the room.

Attitudes- In this study, attitudes towards mainstreaming of teachers, students, and parents are quantified.

Classroom Variables- Statistical evidence of handicapped student’s success in a mainstreamed classroom compared to separated classrooms.

Technology Related to Mainstreaming:

Kelly Driscoll- Kelly is able to take part in regular classroom despite her disabilities with the help of a personal technology system.

Did You Know- A video relating to the shift toward technology in classrooms and worldwide.


Fitting In- Tips for making everyone feel welcome in an inclusive classroom.

A Service Not a Sentence- Support and ideas for implementing mainstreaming.

Inclusion Week- A less commercial website devoted to the ideas of mainstreaming and how it can be accomplished worldwide.

Current Examples in the News:

Abington Heights Middle School- the story of a middle school in Pennsylvania experiencing mainstreaming.

Legal Fight- A legal battle over the question “Must parents of special-education students give public schools a chance before having taxpayers reimburse them for private-school tuition?”

Story of a Teacher- A woman testified for the rights of a handicapped student in school.

Individual Stories:

Kelly Driscoll- Kelly is able to take part in regular classroom despite her disabilities with the help of a personal technology system.

Peter Barnes- The story of a teacher who uses discrete teaching techniques to make children with disabilities less alienated in his mainstreamed classroom.

Opposing View:

Duck!- While teachers in this Pennsylvania town supported inclusion, the parents voiced concerns in this study if “average” students would receive watered down curriculum as a result, and if mainstreaming affected the quality of education received by all.

Arguments For and Against- Systematically lists the pros and cons.

Against- A less formal website, but someone's valid argument against mainstreaming.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A Theory of a Deeper Issue

Mainstreaming is an incredibly pertinent issue pertaining not only to special needs children, but to all students, parents, teachers, and administrators across the country. Even though there is a nation wide movement towards integrating special needs children into regular classrooms, I believe that mainstreaming is still in debate because it is drawing on a larger societal issue that has happened throughout history in America. I feel that there is a sense of wariness towards mainstreaming from adults because they are afraid of lowering the level of education given to kids in regular classrooms. On the children’s side, there is statistical evidence that shows they are scared and intimidated to learn and interact in the same context as special needs students. As selfish and close-minded as that may seem, I believe that it is the root of the problem. If there was not an emotional or political problem below the surface, every classroom in America would be mainstreamed because there is so much hard, factual evidence that supports the technique and shows progress for both parties involved.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Technology in the Mainstreamed Classroom

A group called the Center for Applied Technology has created a system called a Universal Design for Learning (UDL) which allows students to use whatever print or technological tools they need in a classroom. This article tells the story of a young girl who has learning disabilities but was able to use her personal technology in order to read a story in a regular classroom. “I had a chance to sit...with kids my age, kids that are supposed to be in my grade," she says. "And that's instead of getting kicked out of the class." The team that designed the technology program was able to also have input in the IDEA legislation, and is currently working on getting the UDL systems into mainstreamed classrooms across the country. This article also ties a link into the Youtube link on the right side of the page. With the advances in technology that are changing our everyday life, it is important to be integrating technology into every classroom, including classrooms with special education students. This system demonstrates that they most certainly have the capacity to use technology, and also are able to thrive with its aid. I think that, with our generation’s turn to technology, if special education students did not learn how to use different aspects of new technology we would be unfairly leaving them behind.

Friday, October 19, 2007

A Main Function: Minimizing Cruelty

One of the greatest aspects of inclusion is the fact that special needs kids are no longer secluded. They finally become part of a classroom setting which they deserve and can adapt to with their peers. Of course, there is an acknowledgement of differences between all of the students, but in this case, teacher Peter Barnes feels that inclusion “minimizes the negative effects.” Even if the cases that prove academic improvement are ignored, the premise that special needs kids are able to become more of a student and person is enough to integrate classrooms.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Mainstreaming Analysis

Everyone remembers kindergarten: the days of finger-painting, singing the alphabet, and having an excuse to put unidentifiable objects in their nose. As the grades got higher, the memories of finger-painting morph into studying, songs turn into taking notes, and finally our nasal passages are clear. The memories of kindergarten are common and universal; everyone can bring themselves back to that classroom. But the consensus ideas of middle school and high school is much more blurred, unique to every student, and the great contributing factor to the educational experience in these levels is the “track” system used across the country. From day one, students are place on a general education track or a special education track which determines what classes they take, what friends they make, and how much help they receive.

In recent trends in American educational systems, these two tracks have slowly been merging, a trend known as mainstreaming or inclusive education. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, in 1994, 48% of persons with special needs received “educational services” within regular classrooms. In 2000, that number jumped to 70%, according to the U.S. Department of Education. But as these paths cross, the educators, parents, and children involved have had differing opinions on the implication of these tactics, and even if mainstreaming has a place in American schools.

Supporters of inclusive classrooms have a multitude of studies and experiences to back their opinion because this topic has been under such scrutiny in the recent past. Mainstreaming is the educational idea that a child with special needs should be placed into a regular classroom as much as possible and a special education classroom as little as possible, making the student part of the community and less isolated. Obviously, these plans depend on each case because of the support needed, but each plan is based on an unrestrictive theory: that the child should be restricted from normal interactions as little as possible.

The main support for mainstreaming is from a social aspect. By placing a student with special needs into a regular classroom, they are able to learn, develop friendships with, and model themselves after students without disabilities. Not only does this foster their social needs, but it also teaches them proper social behavior. Inclusive education “involves children ‘belonging, being valued, and having choices’” in the eyes of supporters. Students benefit because of the academic standard that is set amongst the integrated classroom, and academically improve quickly. Not only do the children with special needs benefit, but the general education students learn that kids with special needs are part of the educational community as well, and do not deserve to be treated differently.

Some find that the disadvantages of mainstreaming are too big a hindrance to both parties involved. Those who believe that separate classrooms are better for children with special needs feel that they cause a distraction to the other kids, and in some cases, prohibit the teacher from doing their job. Mainstreaming also requires more staff training and knowledge of special education techniques, and it takes valuable time and resources to bring a school district up to standards. Parents of general education kids usually worry that inclusion will lower education standards of the classroom.

Because this topic has been in the limelight recently, there have been multiple advancing studies as well as government adaptations. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendment (IDEA) passed in 1997, requiring children with disabilities to be taught with their peers “in the least restrictive environment as possible.” After integration, Zigmond and Baker found that teachers’ behavior did not change after the addition of special needs kids to a classroom, and the behavior of nonhandicapped students actually improved. Such studies are not rare, like this one from the National Center for Special Education Research, this one by Sharon Lynch showing evidence in the science department, and this one by John Wallace, and support those who believe integrating America’s classrooms would have a serious benefit to the country’s students. As a matter of fact, these studies have been taking place across the world: Ghana, Macao, and Bangkok. According to Cook, teachers’ attitudes towards inclusion is directly related to the effectiveness of their methods, and currently, teachers’ attitudes have never been higher. All of this hard evidence points to an urgent matter that, if implemented correctly, could seriously alter the productivity and quality of education in our nation.

In the news recently, there has been an explosion of mainstreaming in suburban public schools, such as Abington Heights Middle School in Pennsylvania. Over the past two years they have seen an exponential growth in the number of children with autism that they are catering to. In Pennsylvania, about half of the autistic kids in the state spend around 40% of their time in regular classrooms, and the program is receiving funding to accelerate their techniques. Earlier this month, Tom Freston, a former Viacom Executive, began a legal fight against the New York City. The issue currently in question is “Must parents of special-education students give public schools a chance before having taxpayers reimburse them for private-school tuition?” The result of the case will have a serious implication on the funding that the government gives to education, and the mainstreaming effort will be directly impacted. And just a few days ago, a newspaper highlighted the actions of a teacher living in Arkansas who testified against her school district in order to support a young girl. Grace Blagdon was advocating for Sydney Taylor, a little girl with down syndrome. Grace’s testimony said that any disabled child with supportive parents and a qualified aide had the ability to be mainstreamed.

The implications for mainstreaming in any school are tremendous, affecting not only the kids with special needs, but everyone in the building. By manipulating the way that this group of children learn, schools are beginning to see changes in academic and social relationships between students and adults. In this study by Gary Siperstein, the attitudes of general education students towards mainstreaming was quantified, and brought interesting feelings up front. Across the nation, the study found that students perceive their peers with disabilities as much more impaired than they truly are. The consensus was that disabled students could participate in “nonacademic classes” but not academic classes. The study also found that most kids feel mixed emotions towards mainstreaming, finding both positive and negative aspects, but would not like to interact with their disabled peers, especially outside of an academic setting.

This mixed idea towards mainstreaming from children implies that there is an even larger confusion for administrators and parents, which is evident in the debate that has formed around the issue. But with attitudes and hard data presenting conflicting evidence, it leaves the fate of children with special needs in question. By mainstreaming in American schools there may be sacrifice on the part of teachers, students, and parents, but, from our best current knowledge, there will also be enormous gain on everyone’s behalf.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Just Who and When Exactly?

Isolating students in specialized classrooms is certainly not best for everyone in the long run. In fact, multiple studies have proven that students with special needs perform and excel at higher rates when integrated in certain subject matters.
Mainstreaming is intended to be implemented at the middle school level. Then, as kids progress, they can grow into high school, eventually mainstreamed into their classes, most likely still needing some assistance, but it will be minimized. By starting in middle school, the kids are most adaptable and will able to benefit the longest.
Of course, many special needs kids don't have the ability to perform well in AP and IB classes, and they are most certainly not going to be placed there if they cannot be successful. After all, AP and IB classes are not exactly on an average educational track. They are advanced classes that are taken to challenge the brightest students. Students with disabilities will find the mainstreamed classes a challenge as well as bringing the greatest sense of accomplishment. Mainstreaming is not segregating a class by ability, it is integrating, which is proven to benefit both parties involved.

Where to Draw the Line

If mainstreaming is going to be a part of every school, there obviously must be some conditions that go with it, but exactly where to draw the line is still in question to me. Certainly not every child with special needs should be thrown into integrated classrooms because of each individual need, but many students would thrive in this situation. There are a few small first steps that every school could take in order to turn in the mainstreaming direction without having to discriminate by needs. In the story of Oscar, he was successfully mainstreamed because of a few small measures that his school took: students were placed in schools within their neighborhood throughout their career, homeroom was an integrated class, and there were no segregated spaces within the school (computer labs, libraries, etc.). By taking these small measures any school can begin integrating special needs kids into classrooms without having to determine “who goes where.” These steps can be district wide and students and teachers can immediately benefit from being in an integrated environment.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Numbers

I think that it's really important to understand the number of children we are looking to impact. 12.8%--by no means a majority but a large part of the population. And if the effects of mainstreaming are multiplied by 12.8%, that produces an enormous result.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Access to the General Curriculum

Take a look at this article

This study, performed in 2006, was designed to test the progress of individuals with disabilities in different settings. Watching 19 students, data was collected through computers and was later compiled and compared. The study compares data against placing children in classrooms with “curriculum adaptations” and students with “access to the general education curriculum.” After in depth analysis the study determined that “students educated in divided and entire group physical arrangements had greater access to the general education curriculum than students educated in individual physical arrangements.” Furthermore, the study also found that students that worked independently had much more development. The study’s conclusion undeniably deserves attention in today’s school districts: “students with intellectual and developmental disabilities are capable of managing their own learning when working on content related to the general curriculum.” If nothing else, this is a plea for special education children to be given some well deserved independence. With paraprofessionals and assistants and peers always trying to help, it’s no wonder many feel frustrated with the educational process that they are capable of maneuvering themselves.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Questions

From the moment they enter kindergarten, America’s children are placed on two distinct tracts in school districts across the country: general education or special education. Tests are taken and procedures are performed to determine the track of each and every child. The track of general education is what every typical classroom is though of, including one teacher and a classroom of students awaiting instructions on the alphabet and addition. The special education classroom, however, is not so typical. Many children with mild to sever learning disabilities are placed on the special education track with the purpose of giving them undivided and specialized attention, often one on one or in small groups.

It is this separation that is causing a rift from high schools to elementary schools. When children identified with special needs are pulled into divided classrooms, they are differentiated from their peers leaving everyone, not only the children with special needs, feeling uncomfortable. So, the questions arise: Should children with special needs be mainstreamed into classrooms or be put into special needs classes? And what are the pros and cons of each setting?